Laciee stood at the doorway to Shaun’s nursery; shell-shocked and numb. Yesterday she was standing in this very place before she traveled through time, into the nightmare.
“Look at this place. It’s a mess. Can’t leave you guys alone for a minute.” she said, her voice as broken as the derelict room.
She dragged the furniture around until it looked something like it did before. She was desperate to reconnect but there was nothing. She sat in the glow of the old oil lamp, its flickering light reflecting the tears streaming down her face.
Codsworth was her hope but even that had been dashed. Her mind was still reeling from their conversation. She’d been in that icebox for over two hundred years. Let that sink in, Laciee. Two Hundred Fucking Years.
And the clincher was that she had no clue when Shaun had been taken. A year? Ten? The thought gave her chills.
She needed to get out there. She needed to find him but she didn’t know where to start.
Her last conversation with Codsworth hadn’t gone well. They had gone round the neighborhood looking for supplies and killing the giant mutated insects inhabiting some of the houses but when she asked him to travel with her into Concord, he refused. She begged, she pleaded, she demanded but still he refused.
“Well, fuck you Codsworth.” was the last thing she said to him before he went back to trimming the dead bushes. She was angry and scared. The love-hate thing she felt for him was still very much there.
In the light of the rising sun she spotted Shaun’s book on the floor, hiding under the dresser. She picked it up and held it tight against her chest. It was just a small connection to the past but it was special.
“I’m gonna find you, baby.” she whispered.
Exhausted, she dozed off in Shaun’s nursery, still clutching his SPECIAL book to her breast. She woke to the sun on her face as it streamed through the window. Somewhere below Sanctuary Hills was the distant sound of gunfire. She got up, wincing at the pain in her neck from sleeping badly in the chair; the noises from her tummy indicating that it was more than ready for food. Food! Where? What?
Tucking the book away in her pack, she made her way to the front of the house to find Codsworth. After their last conversation she really wasn’t up to talking to him but he might know where she could get something to eat. He was outside pulling weeds… or at least trying. His pincers couldn’t quite close tightly enough so they slipped out every time he pulled on them.
“Hey… Codsworth.” she called to him.
“Mum.” he replied curtly.
For a moment she marveled at the humanness of his programming. He seemed genuinely upset at her.
“Do you know where I could find some food and clean water?” she asked.
“I suppose I could prepare some grilled Bloatfly or Radroach.” he said, referring to the giant insects they had killed earlier.
“What?… Ewww!” she replied. “You’re kidding…right?”
“I assure you mum, I am not.” he answered. “People eat all manner of things they never used to.”
Suddenly she wasn’t hungry anymore. The thought of eating giant bugs made her feel sick.
“I put some clean water aside some time ago.” he added. “I will fetch it.”
She went across to the Rosa house where someone had at set up a little workshop. The equipment looked like it had been abandoned for some time but it all looked intact.
Codsworth returned with the water which she gratefully accepted, downing one can and putting the others in her pack.
As she closed the pack she heard more gunfire coming from the vicinity of Concord.
“Where’s the safest place to find more food, Codsworth?” she asked.
“Mum might find some old cans in the Jahani’s root cellar but I’m not sure they’d be safe to eat.” he replied. “You could also try the Abernathy’s farm. They’re nice people. It’s at one of the electrical pylons, south of here.”
She shouldered her pack and checked the pistol for the umpteenth time.
“Thank you Codsworth.” she said. ” Still wish you’d come with me. Perhaps we will meet again but for now I have to keep going. I have to find him.”
He was silent. The only noises were rattling metal and the hiss of his gas jet. She sighed and started walking south.
“Mum?” he called out.
She stopped for a moment.
“Please be careful, Mum.” he said.
On her way to the farm she found herself drawn to the Red Rocket station. Perhaps simple curiosity or the strong urge to find some booze, despite how unlikely that might be. She avoided the front of the building, scouting for signs of life.
She stumbled upon what looked like the entrance to a cave that went under the building. Somewhere buried in her memories she remembered the neighbourhood kids talking about it, daring each other to go inside. She had a thought. Where would you store alcohol? Somewhere cool and dark, right?
She ventured in, the PipBoy bathing the walls in its putrid green light. In dark corners, strange mushrooms glowed as if illuminated from within. There was a weird smell and she started to feel faint. Her head felt like it had been filled with helium. She placed a hand on the dirt wall to steady herself but snatched it away as she felt it undulating beneath her fingers. Through her blurred vision she saw movement. There was someone else down here! She raised the 10mm pistol as she backed away slowly. She was trying to blend into the shadows but the shape was coming closer. In a split second the person was in front of her. She fought to focus on the figure’s face and then wished she hadn’t.
The voice seemed to come from every direction at once.
“A… Alice?” Laciee whispered.
HEH. YES THE GOOD TWIN. WHAT GAVE IT AWAY, LACIEE DAY? MY PRETTY FACE?
“Oh God… what the fuck? You’re me… am I…?”
MAD? Alice grinned. HEH. WELL SOMETHING ISN’T QUITE RIGHT. BUT I CAN FIX THAT.
“What…how?” Laciee stammered, backing towards the wall as Alice came closer. The grin turned to a snarl.
YOU’RE WEAK, LACIEE DAY. YOU’RE THE BAD ONE. I DON’T NEED YOU. SHAUN DOESN’T NEED A MOTHER LIKE YOU. WHAT ARE WE EVEN DOING DOWN THIS RABBIT HOLE? LOOKING FOR CHEMS AND BOOZE?
Alice shoved her backwards and she hit the wall. The gun was at her throat.
HEY HEY, LACIEE DAY.
“What the fuck… you’re gonna kill us both!” Laciee’s voice trembled with fear and anger. She raised her own pistol.
Alice looked at her with contempt as she pushed the gun barrel even harder against her neck. Laciee gave a small shriek, stumbled, attempting to side-step and get away. Alice smashed her with the butt of the pistol and she went down hard.
HOW LONG IS FOREVER? Alice whispered. TELL ME, LITTLE RABBIT.
“Sometimes… just one second.” Laciee answered as the gun went off. A deafening roar and a split second of blinding muzzle-flash before her world went dark.
To be continued…